In a world dominated by magical thinking, superstition and misinformation, give yourself the benefit of doubt. This is one skeptic's view of the Universe; natural wonders and supernatural blunders.

"Tell people there’s an invisible man in the sky who created the universe, and the vast majority believe you. Tell them the paint is wet, and they have to touch it to be sure."

-George Carlin

“If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed”.

-Albert Einstein

“Skeptical scrutiny is the means, in both science and religion, by which deep thoughts can be winnowed from deep nonsense.”

-Carl Sagan

The person who is certain, and who claims divine warrant for his certainty, belongs now to the infancy of our species. It may be a long farewell, but it has begun and, like all farewells, should not be protracted.

-Christopher Hitchens

 

Selective Outrage: The Media and NSA Surveillance

This story starts with Hannity, but the entire news media is implicated.

Back in 2006 during the Bush administration, when the same type of surveillance was under the apparent cyclical scrutiny, Sean Hannity became the biggest supporter of the policy. In fact on his show he excoriated those who opposed it many times. The Mediamatters mash up below is a classic that shows the hypocrisy. While this may be funny to some and upsetting to others, the reason this type of hypocrisy must be explored is because of the corrosive effect it has on the body politic.

Pre-Obama:

We know that you are against the NSA data mining. We know that you are against the NSA surveillance program. So the question is, where does the Democratic Party, what will you do if you are elected to power to make our country safe from the war on terror. Specifically what would your party support.

You have Pat Leahy saying that he doesn’t want an NSA surveillance program. Nancy Polosi, the woman who’d love to be Speaker, she is against the NSA surveillance……

Is it right to say that issues regarding national security be it the NSA surveillance program, the data mining program, the Patriot Act, Guantanamo Bay that Democrats are weak on issues involving national security.

Our techniques are working. We’ve got the NSA program here, we have the Patriot Act program here. In light of this how close this was,it’s staggering to me that we are even debating the use of these techniques in this country even at this time.

During Obama:

Big Brother is monitoring your every move whether it be online or on the telephone. Let’s talk about why this story, why is it important to you.

Number one, this is America and as law bided American citizens you have a right to privacy. Number two, these actions by the Obama administration are clear, very clear violations of the fourth amendment, which prohibits unlimited search and seizure. Number three, the Constitution, it is our rule of law. If we do not respect and honor the Constitution, then anarchy and tyranny will then follow.

The intent here is not to solely point out the hypocrisy that is being engendered by this recycled debate. It is to show how the American people are being hoodwinked by the media. One can make an argument on either side of this debate that is both plausible and constitutional. This debate however must be intellectually honest. To date it has not been on either side.

The problem is the inconsistency of those engaged in the debate, the lack of pragmatic logic on some, and the complicity of the media in misleading Americans. It is true that Sean Hannity is nothing more than an ideologue with a dedicated following for which he is the puppeteer. It is also true that most Americans do not take him seriously.

The ‘respected’ media however is not very far behind Sean Hannity in either being manipulated by stories or being a party to the manipulation of stories. The NSA story has been out since 2006. The surprise and outrage being articulated by the mainstream media is at best fabricated for ratings.

Using and manipulating these stories have consequences. They take all the oxygen away from more important stories. Why is there no continuous story of a job recovery comprised mostly of substandard jobs? Why is there no continuous coverage of the real effects sequester is having on the poor and the middle class?

Allowing the same parties to take different sides of the same issue for political gain simply allow the metastasis of misinformation. Who can forget the media not stressing that the Healthcare Mandate was a Republican/Heritage Foundation idea that under Obama Republicans ran from. Who can forget that the carbon tax was a capitalist/Conservative/Republican approach, trading carbon, that Sarah Palin and others then labeled cap and tax.

Source

The GOP Candidates Want Never-Ending War on Terror | Peter Beinart

theamericanbear:

[At the foreign poilcy debate this week, the candidates] simply declared that because there is a threat, America remains at war. Sure, there’s a terrorist threat and there always will be, even if Al Qaeda itself goes out of business. But if that’s all it takes for the United States to be at war, the United States will never be a peacetime nation again, which means we’ll never be able to regain the civil liberties we enjoyed before 9/11, or tame a defense and homeland security budget that has grown so massively in the last decade.

We’ve been through this before. The idea that America was fighting a “Cold War” against “global communism” when in fact we were engaged in a power struggle with a calcifying Soviet Union and a series of left-wing Third World movements over which it had little influence distorted American foreign and domestic policy for decades. But at least the “Cold War” was an oxymoron—it suggested a state of tension that did not result in the taking up of arms. “War on terror,” which suggests active military conflict, is even worse. Travel around America today. Do we look like a nation at war? The small segment of the American population that serves in the military is still fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq. But the rest of the nation has utterly lost interest. And when those two wars mercifully end—as they likely will no matter who is president in the next few years—America will be a peacetime nation again. At some level, the leading Republican presidential candidates understand that. They would never dream of suggesting that America’s “war on terror” requires higher taxes, a draft or anything else that would burden the ordinary American. And yet they keep using the language of war to insulate America’s defense budget from serious scrutiny and to suggest that people accused of terrorism don’t deserve basic protections under the law.

As George Orwell famously noted, bad public policy often hides behind dishonest language. Nations that truly are permanently at war generally go bankrupt or become police states or both. Nations whose leaders pretend they are permanently at war when they are actually not simply suffer a profound distortion of their national priorities. In the United States today, that is bad enough.

Read more →

Oh, this.

tinfoilandtea:


They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.
-Benjamin Franklin

This is what happens when the government is allowed to pass bills like The Patriot Act.

tinfoilandtea:

They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.

-Benjamin Franklin

This is what happens when the government is allowed to pass bills like The Patriot Act.

fuckyeahdrugpolicy:

Wasn’t the PATRIOT Act Supposed To Be About Stopping Terrorism? | Techdirt

The PATRIOT Act was all about stopping terrorism, right? We were told that special provisions that ate away at our civil liberties were needed specifically to catch dangerous terrorists — and that the reason for such an abdication of our rights had nothing to do with simply giving the government more useful surveillance powers. Aaron DeOliveira points us to a fascinating chart that shows how often law enforcement has been using “sneak-and-peek” warrants. These warrants let officials search private property without letting the target of the investigation know. Again, we were told that these expanded powers were needed to stop terrorism. So what have they been used for? Take a look. +

via New York Magazine - 

Before 9/11, when politicians spoke of “patriots,” they usually meant soldiers. Now prosecutors and the FBI were reaching for the same vanity—that they were the hard tip of freedom—and the same license to pursue enemies without much oversight or meddling. When it was signed into law six weeks after the attacks, the act made it easier to wiretap American citizens suspected of cooperating with terrorism, to snoop through business records without notification, and to execute search warrants without immediately informing their targets (a so-called sneak-and-peek [P2]). Privileges once reserved for overseas intelligence work were extended to domestic criminal investigations. There was less judicial oversight and very little transparency. The bill’s symbolism mattered also, signaling that the moral deference previously given to the Special Forces would be broadened until it encompassed much of the apparatus of the American state. Local prosecutors, military policemen, CIA lawyers—these were indispensable patriots too. +


I’d say unbelievable, but it’s totally believable.

fuckyeahdrugpolicy:

Wasn’t the PATRIOT Act Supposed To Be About Stopping Terrorism? | Techdirt

The PATRIOT Act was all about stopping terrorism, right? We were told that special provisions that ate away at our civil liberties were needed specifically to catch dangerous terrorists — and that the reason for such an abdication of our rights had nothing to do with simply giving the government more useful surveillance powers. Aaron DeOliveira points us to a fascinating chart that shows how often law enforcement has been using “sneak-and-peek” warrants. These warrants let officials search private property without letting the target of the investigation know. Again, we were told that these expanded powers were needed to stop terrorism. So what have they been used for? Take a look. +

via New York Magazine - 

Before 9/11, when politicians spoke of “patriots,” they usually meant soldiers. Now prosecutors and the FBI were reaching for the same vanity—that they were the hard tip of freedom—and the same license to pursue enemies without much oversight or meddling. When it was signed into law six weeks after the attacks, the act made it easier to wiretap American citizens suspected of cooperating with terrorism, to snoop through business records without notification, and to execute search warrants without immediately informing their targets (a so-called sneak-and-peek [P2]). Privileges once reserved for overseas intelligence work were extended to domestic criminal investigations. There was less judicial oversight and very little transparency. The bill’s symbolism mattered also, signaling that the moral deference previously given to the Special Forces would be broadened until it encompassed much of the apparatus of the American state. Local prosecutors, military policemen, CIA lawyers—these were indispensable patriots too. +

I’d say unbelievable, but it’s totally believable.